James #1

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  28:22
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Engage / Tension

Before we begin reading James, it’s important to look at some of the details about the book like authorship, who it was written to, and the reason it was written in the first place. If you can guess, the book of James was most likely written by James, the half brother of Jesus.
James 1:1 “1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.”
A few things to point out just in the greeting that James gives. First, notice how he introduces himself. James, servant of God. James doesn’t include in the greeting that he is Jesus’ brother and I think that is interesting. You see, James wasn’t writing this because Jesus was his brother and was writing from that perspective, James is writing this letter just as Paul and others wrote theirs, simply as a servant of Jesus. If I had been in James’ position I probably would have included something about being Jesus’ brother that way people took me seriously, but James doesn’t do that. Something else that makes James an interesting person is the fact that he did not believe in Jesus during his ministry. In chapter 3 of the gospel of Mark, we read, Mark 3:20-21 “20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.””
Granted, this is probably what many of us would do if we had a relative going around saying they were the son of God and the Messiah, but James didn’t think that was true during Jesus’ ministry. James became a believer after the resurrection and Jesus appeared to him.
1 Corinthians 15:3-7 “3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,”
James went on to become the leader of the church in Jerusalem and we see that in Acts 15 and 21. In Acts 15, we see James specifically in this leadership role. Paul and Barnabas report to the church about the Gentiles, James speaks up and encourages the church to help the gentiles become a part of them.
James then is writing primarily to Jewish Christians who were once a part of the church in Jerusalem. The church had been scattered after Stephen was killed and they were facing a difficult time. They were facing severe persecution and it was a time of trials and suffering for them. So that is part of the reason that James is writing to them, but he is also writing an extremely practical for them on how to put their faith into practice. James is a great book to study to look at how faith and works go together. Throughout these 5 chapters, James refers to faith 14 times and out of 108 verses, 59 of them are commands. James is telling the scattered people and us, that there are things that we should be doing.
If you can possibly remember, I mentioned that we would be studying James the first Sunday that we began the Gospel of John, roughly two and a half years ago. (oh my) The reason we did that, was so that we could see who Jesus was and why we should do the things that James talks about. If we don’t have an understanding of who Jesus is and have a relationship with him, we could take the book of James and transform our faith into something very legalistic. That is not what I want us to do, instead, I want us to see James as much as we can as James intended for the church. The truth is that faith works. We don’t work to earn salvation, but out of our salvation, out of the grace we receive through Jesus, we are called to live and act a certain way. It is similar to the Fruit of the Spirit. If there is no fruit, is the tree even alive?
So over the course of the next ten weeks, we are going to be challenged by James to be doing things, to be living our lives differently. To demonstrate our faith in the things that we do. So, with all of that hopefully somewhat in our heads, let’s read the first section.
James 1:2–18 NIV
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

The Purpose of Trials

I love how one author sums up these verses. He summarizes this first part of James by saying,
Exalting Jesus In James Why Trials and Temptations?

“Trials and temptations are both inevitable, and God intends both to deepen our faith.”

This passage is not exactly a fun passage or one that we even altogether like if we are honest. James starts off by telling us to consider it joy when you face trials. Who feels uplifted by that? Think about who James is writing to. He is writing to the early church, Christians who had to scatter, who had to flee their homes because of the persecution they were facing after the killing of Stephen. Yet here is James telling them to consider it “pure joy.” I don’t think James is telling us that we should be happy when we go through difficult times in life, but he wants us to begin to have perspective on what is happening to us. This section ties in well with the story of Joseph that we just finished. Joseph was able to look back on his trials and consider them with joy because of how God used them in his life.
James also gives us a practical reason for facing trials with joy. In verses 3 and 4 he says that the trials do something to us. They produce perseverance in us which leads to maturity in our faith. When we mature in our faith we are developing more into the likeness of Christ. That is what our goal is as a Christian, to become more and more like Jesus. But we don’t often think like that. That often is not on our to do list for the day, 1) become more like Jesus 2) take out the garbage. But that is what we should be striving for, we want to mature in our faith, we want to become more like Jesus. And while we may not like it, trials help us to mature in our faith.
I got used to using Kanan in sermons at church camp so I’m going to use him as an example. One thing that has been so neat about being a parent is seeing how Kanan develops and changes. It’s great to see him walking around jibber jabbering and think about how he has changed in the last year. While we might miss some stages of kids being a baby, it is good that they mature and grow and change.
The same is true for our faith. Our faith should not remain in the same state as it was when we first professed belief in Jesus. God wants us to mature in our faith just as I want Kanan to mature and grow. When we mature spiritually we become more like Jesus, more patient, more loving, gentle, kind, all of those good things.
Exalting Jesus In James God Is Sovereign over Our Trials (1:2–12)

Think of a trial in your own life (whether it’s big or small): if the goal is just to fix your circumstances, then you are setting yourself up for constant frustration because often the circumstance won’t get fixed like you want it to, and sometimes it won’t get fixed at all. Even when it is fixed like you want it, something else will come up. You will live in constant anxiety. But if your ultimate goal is not just to fix your circumstances but to know God and to grow in God, then rejoice because no matter what your circumstances, you will achieve your goal. God has designed trials for your growth in godliness. Trials are joy when God is our goal.

James also tells us that we have help when facing trials. He says that we can ask God for wisdom when facing trials, and that he will give it to us. So when we face trials we don’t need to depend upon the world’s wisdom and advice for how to handle the situation. Instead we can go directly to God, ask for wisdom, have confidence that God will give it to us, and then receive the wisdom that we need to help us through the trial.
In verses 9-11 James seems to switch topics and bring up the topic of wealth and poverty. Why does James bring up wealth and poverty when discussing trials? Most of the people reading the letter were likely poor, but there would have been some among the group that were rich and trusting in their money. Trials have this unique way of leveling the playing field between people who are wealthy and people who are in poverty. While poverty might be a trial in and of itself, that teaches you to trust in God and you are driven to rely upon him more and mature in your faith. On the other hand, if you are wealthy you might depend on your money more that your faith. But trials remind you if you are wealthy that money doesn’t solve everything. Money can’t just give you good health, money can’t fix your relationships. At the end of the day if you are stuck laying in your bed because of health issues and you’ve ruined all of your relationships, but you’ve got a bank account full of money, I would say that you in fact are not wealthy. So James reminds us that if we are struggling financially, once again, consider it joy, because we are learning to trust God more. But if you’re wealthy, be warned and aware that all of those material things will fade away and end up being nothing.
James wants us to see that our goal in life should not be built around money, but built around God. And if God is our goal, verse 12 gives us an amazing promise. Verse 12 tells us that persevering under trial is a good thing because at the end of it, we will receive the crown of life that Jesus has promised to us. This is not a piece of gold made with precious stones though, this is the gift of eternal life that we receive through Jesus. So we can consider it joy when we face any kind of trials because we are reminded that we are living for a reward to come. 2 Cor 4:17 “17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
This doesn’t minimize the pain and hurt that you experience in life, but it’s so important that we keep the right perspective on life. Yes, we all experience pain and heartache in life, the early Christians reading James knew this as well, but at the end of the day we know that our lives won’t end with heartache. Instead they will end with rejoicing as we meet Jesus face to face and rest in his presence for eternity.

Our Role in Temptation

James goes on in verses 13-15 and brings up the topic of temptation. Temptation goes hand in hand with trials because what often happens is we face some kind of trial in life, and in order to deal with that trial we might be tempted to do something to either help solve the trial or help get us through it. James makes it clear though that this temptation does not come from God. God is not the one tempting you, we are the ones who are responsible for our temptations. Because of our sin, because of our old nature, we ourselves bring about our temptation. So we have to be careful when we face trials that we don’t give in to these temptations that would cause us to sin. James says that when we act on that desire, we sin and sin is the opposite of life, sin is death. So we want to run away from our temptations so that we do not sin.

The Unchanging God

James ends his section with some really great verses.
James 1:16-18 “16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
Every good thing that you have in life did not come from your own hard work or desire. Every good thing in life is a gift from God who gives them to you because he loves you. And what is so great about this, is that God does not change. God does not decide to love us one week and then abandon us the next. No, God has set his heart towards you and it is unwavering, unchanging. He desires to give you life through Jesus so that you can experience that reward of eternity with him. And that is a very good thing for us to remember whenever we face trials and temptations in life.


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